St. John's Prep senior running back Johnathan Thomas, the top overall prospect in Massachusetts' Class of 2014, confirmed to ESPNBoston.com tonight that he has switched his commitment from Maryland to Penn State.
The news was first reported by 247 Sports.
"I'm very excited and blessed to be a part of the Penn State family," Thomas said. "Penn State has always been my dream school and it is truly a blessing to know that I will be getting an outstanding education and playing football at Penn State University."
The 5-foot-11, 210-pound Thomas, a Peabody resident, initially committed to Maryland last May over offers from Arkansas, UConn, Boston College and UMass. Wisconsin followed up with an offer to Thomas after his commitment to the Terrapins.
Thomas is the No. 1 overall recruit in Massachusetts for the 2014 class according to ESPNU. He suffered a season-ending knee injury following the Eagles' loss to Everett on Sept. 28. At the time, he was leading the state in rushing with 748 yards and eight total touchdowns through four games, including a 107-yard interception return against Central Catholic that was named the No. 1 play on SportsCenter's Top 10.
Late last April, during a school function, Thomas had expressed being overwhelmed by the recruiting process at times, telling ESPNBoston.com, "Sometimes it can be overwhelming, because they really pressure you to commit right away, and if you're not ready to commit..it's still early, I do want to commit before the season, but if I’m not positive about something, I don’t want to commit because once you commit at the Prep, it’s a done deal. There’s no de-committing."
Asked to reflect on those comments, and what circumstances brought about the switch in his commitment, Thomas said, "At the end of the day, I have to do what's best for me. If a major change has to happen, then that's what has to be done."
There is an obvious connection between Thomas' high school and Nittany Lions head coach Bill O'Brien, who graduated from St. John's Prep in 1988 and originally hails from Andover.
But beyond that, the Lions caught a good break late last month, when the NCAA Executive Committee made the decision to gradually restore scholarships that had been taken away in 2012. Penn State will be able to sign 20 scholarship athletes for this next recruiting class, up from 15, and will have 75 scholarships overall next season, up from 65.
Thomas was also an ESPN Boston All-State selection after helping lead the Eagles to their first MIAA Division 1 Super Bowl title in 15 years, carrying 220 times for 1,794 yards and 15 touchdowns. He also added nine catches for 153 yards and three touchdowns, and defensively added 20.5 tackles and two interceptions. He was also one of five finalists for ESPN Boston's annual "Mr. Football" Award, given to the best player in Massachusetts, and the only junior named to the list.